Collage of images of a blood sample bag and study coordinators
IT ALL STARTS WITH BLOOD. In 2020 alone, nearly half of the studies published by La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) researchers relied on human blood samples. Through blood, they witnessed the immune system’s battle against SARS-CoV-2 and the power of COVID-19 vaccines. Through blood, they tracked responses to yellow fever and dengue virus. They even uncovered potential drivers of heart disease. In 2021, the Institute opened the John and Susan Major Center for Clinical Investigation. In this new, highly efficient space LJI staff can see up to 35 donors a day. This is where generous blood donors meet the hardworking Clinical Core staff.

Core Director Gina Levi, R.N., welcomes blood donor Rachel M. to the clinic on a crisp winter day. They sit down in a screening room to go over the clinical research requirements and Rachel’s health history. Rachel is healthy, but her family history of Parkinson’s disease means her blood may hold clues to the origins of the disease—and possible treatments. Levi understands Rachel’s urge to help.

“Advances in Parkinson’s research, specifically, have been very meaningful to me as my father had Parkinson’s disease,” Levi says. “I watched as it slowly robbed a once vital and strong man of his ability to move and think.”

Blood has many ingredients, and most LJI scientists aren’t interested in the red stuff. Immunologists here focus on white blood cells, also called leukocytes, which include T cells, B cells, macrophages, and other key immune cells. Find these leukocytes, and you’ll uncover clues to how immune cells do their jobs.With Rachel’s blood donation complete, it’s time to process the blood before it heads to an LJI laboratory.


served in 2021

282,853 ML
of blood processed in 2021

COVID-19 patient samples collected

25 PROJECTS currently enrolling donors